Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan

Update US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he walks with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel, May 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he walks with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel, May 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 25 June 2024
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Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan

Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan
  • The Middle East remains on edge as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a coming end to the intense phase of fighting in Gaza would allow Israel to deploy more forces along the northern border with Lebanon
  • Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006 after Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, but the enclave is still deemed as Israeli-occupied territory by the United Nations

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday pressed Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on the need for Israel to swiftly develop a robust post-war plan for Gaza and ensure the tensions with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border do not escalate further.
“He (Blinken) updated Minister Gallant on ongoing diplomatic efforts to advance security, governance, and reconstruction in Gaza during a post-conflict period and emphasized the importance of that work to Israel’s security,” a State Department statement following the meeting said.
Washington has repeatedly urged Israel to craft a realistic post-war plan for Gaza and warned that the absence of it could trigger lawlessness and chaos as well as a comeback by Hamas in the Palestinian territory. Palestinians have previously said only an end to Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state will bring peace.
“He also underscored the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” the State Department added.
The Middle East remains on edge as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a coming end to the intense phase of fighting in Gaza would allow Israel to deploy more forces along the northern border with Lebanon.
Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.
Gallant has been on a trip to Washington, D.C., and has also met Amos Hochstein and Brett McGurk, top aides to President Joe Biden, as well as CIA Director Bill Burns. He is set to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.
A small group of protesters chanted slogans while holding a Palestinian flag as Gallant, for whom the International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking an arrest warrant, entered the Department building.
The Israeli minister described his meetings in Washington, including the one with Blinken, as “critical,” according to comments released by his office.
“The meetings we are holding are extremely important and impactful on the future of the war in Gaza and our ability to achieve the goals of the war, on developments on the northern border, and other areas,” Gallant said.
Earlier at a news briefing, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Washington hoped to make progress in its talks with Gallant, although said there was still no agreement with Israel on a post-war Gaza plan even as Israel was getting close to ending major combat operations in Rafah.
“We have been quite consistent that for there to be an enduring defeat of Hamas, there needs to be a plan for what replaces them and what replaces that needs to be Palestinian-led governance, needs to be realistic security plans,” Miller said.
“We do not want to see them reoccupy Gaza, which is why we continue to push for an alternative to that,” Miller said.
Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006 after Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, but the enclave is still deemed as Israeli-occupied territory by the United Nations. Israel controls access to Gaza. Hamas has been gaining popularity among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent months.
The war started when Palestinian Hamas militants burst over the border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has left Gaza in ruins.

 


Biden vows to ‘keep working for end to war in Gaza’

Biden vows to ‘keep working for end to war in Gaza’
Updated 5 sec ago
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Biden vows to ‘keep working for end to war in Gaza’

Biden vows to ‘keep working for end to war in Gaza’
  • Joe Biden: “I’ll be working very closely with the Israelis and with the Palestinians to try to work out how we can get the Gaza war to end"

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden vowed Monday to continue working to end the war in Gaza during his final months in office, after he bowed out of his reelection bid.
“I’ll be working very closely with the Israelis and with the Palestinians to try to work out how we can get the Gaza war to end, and Middle East peace, and get all those hostages home,” Biden said in a public call into his campaign headquarters, which has transitioned to supporting Vice President Kamala Harris.
 

 


Iraq eyes drawdown of US-led forces starting September, sources say

Iraq eyes drawdown of US-led forces starting September, sources say
Updated 12 min 15 sec ago
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Iraq eyes drawdown of US-led forces starting September, sources say

Iraq eyes drawdown of US-led forces starting September, sources say
  • The US currently has around 2,500 troops in Iraq at the head of a more than 80-member coalition that was formed in 2014 to repel Daesh as it rampaged across Iraq and Syria
  • Washington and Baghdad initiated talks on the future of the coalition in January amid tit-for-tat attacks between Iran-backed Shiite Muslim armed groups and US forces that were sparked by the Israel-Hamas war

BAGHDAD: Iraq wants troops from a US-led military coalition to begin withdrawing in September and to formally end the coalition’s work by September 2025, four Iraqi sources said, with some US forces likely to remain in a newly negotiated advisory capacity.
The Iraqi position is being discussed with US officials in Washington this week at a security summit and there is no formal agreement on ending the coalition or any associated timetable yet, the Iraqi sources and US officials said.
US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller told a news briefing that both sides were meeting in Washington this week to determine how to transition the US-led coalition’s mission based on the threat posed by Daesh, adding he had no further details.
US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003, toppled former leader Saddam Hussein and then withdrew in 2011, only to return in 2014 to fight Daesh at the head of the coalition.
The US currently has around 2,500 troops in Iraq at the head of a more than 80-member coalition that was formed in 2014 to repel Daesh as it rampaged across Iraq and Syria.
They are housed at three main bases, one in Baghdad, one in western Anbar province and another in the northern Kurdistan region.
It is unclear how many troops would leave under a deal, with Iraqi sources saying they expected most to eventually depart but US officials saying many may remain under a newly negotiated advise and assist mission.
US officials are keen to have some military footprint in Iraq on a bilateral basis, in part to help support its presence across the border in Syria, where it has around 900 troops.
The issue is highly politicized, with mainly Iran-aligned Iraqi political factions looking to show that they are pushing out the country’s one-time occupier again, while US officials want to avoid giving Iran and its allies a win.
There are also concerns about Daesh’s ability to regroup.
The jihadist group was declared territorially defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2019 but still carries out attacks in both countries and is on track to double its attacks in Syria this year compared to 2023, the US military said.
The group and its affiliates have also in recent months carried out attacks in Iran and Russia, as well as in Oman last week for the first time.
While the coalition’s mission is to advise and assist Iraqi forces in the fight against the Daesh, Western officials say the US and its allies also see its presence in Iraq as a check on Iranian influence.
Washington and Baghdad initiated talks on the future of the coalition in January amid tit-for-tat attacks between Iran-backed Shiite Muslim armed groups and US forces that were sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.
An agreement to draw down the coalition could be a political win for Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, who has been under pressure from Iran-aligned factions to push out US forces but has sought to do so in a way that balances Iraq’s delicate position as an ally of both Washington and Tehran.

 

 


Israel strikes on Yemen port: what is the damage?

Israel strikes on Yemen port: what is the damage?
Updated 41 min 3 sec ago
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Israel strikes on Yemen port: what is the damage?

Israel strikes on Yemen port: what is the damage?
  • The attack destroyed most of the port’s fuel storage capacity of 150,000 tons, leaving the Hodeida governorate with an overall capacity of 50,000, the US-based Navanti Group said, citing merchants
  • The ship “remains operational,” but “all 780,000 liters of fuel stock was likely destroyed,” said Pierre Honnorat, WFP’s Yemen country director, adding that all the agency’s staff were safe and accounted for

DUBAI: Israeli strikes on Saturday hit a power plant and fuel storage facilities in Hodeida, the main port under the control of Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Here is what we know about the damage caused by the attack, which set oil tanks ablaze for days and came a day after the first fatal strike by the Houthis in Israel.

Saturday’s long-distance strike, the first by Israel on the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, hit the Hodeida harbor, a key gateway for fuel and international aid into Houthi-held parts of Yemen.

A satellite image shows a closer view of burning oil tanks after an Israeli air strike on Houthi military targets in Hodeidah, Yemen, July 21, 2024. (REUTERS)

The Houthis, who control swathes of the country including much of its Red Sea coast, said the attack struck fuel storage facilities at the harbor, killing six people, all of them port employees of the Yemen Petroleum Company.
A nearby power plant was also targeted, according to the rebels.
AFPTV images showed huge flames and black smoke spiralling into the sky from burning oil tanks at the port. Debris covered the dock where equipment was damaged.
High-resolution satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies showed flames consuming a heavily damaged fuel storage area, which still appeared to be burning on Monday, according to an AFP correspondent.

Debris litters a loading dock a day after Israeli strikes on the port of Yemen's Huthi-held city of Hodeida on July 21, 2024. (AFP)

A Hodeida port employee who was at the harbor the day of the attack said several tanks exploded sequentially.
But “the port, with its dock, containers, and ships, is intact,” said the employee who spoke on condition of anonymity over security concerns.
Analysis of satellite imagery from Planet by Dutch peace organization PAX showed at least 33 destroyed oil storage tanks, said Wim Zwijnenburg, a project leader with the organization.
“We expect (to find) more damage, as not all storage tanks are visible because of heavy smoke” from the fire and burning fuel, Zwijnenburg told AFP.

According to Zwijnenburg, the bombing has resulted in tens of thousands of liters of oil burning.
“Localized coastal pollution is expected from wastewater and leaking fuel,” said the expert, who specializes in the environmental impacts of war.
Maritime security firm Ambrey said satellite imagery following the strikes showed “extensive damage to the oil products storage facilities,” clarifying, however, that “the bulk terminal storage facilities appeared to be unaffected.”
The attack destroyed most of the port’s fuel storage capacity of 150,000 tons, leaving the Hodeida governorate with an overall capacity of 50,000, the US-based Navanti Group said, citing merchants.
The Israeli army on Sunday published a video showing them hitting two container yard cranes at the harbor.
The Navanti Group said five cranes are now “most likely non-operational.”
Ambrey said two merchant vessels were alongside the yard at the time the cranes were hit, but it did not specify if they were damaged.
The British agency had earlier observed four merchant vessels in the port at the time of the strikes and another eight in the anchorage.
“No vessel arrivals or departures have occurred since the Israeli attack on Hodeida,” Ambrey reported on Monday.

The World Food Programme on Monday told AFP that there had been “minor” damage to a crane on one of its aid vessels in the port and that its fuel storage facility was impacted.
The ship “remains operational,” but “all 780,000 liters of fuel stock was likely destroyed,” said Pierre Honnorat, WFP’s Yemen country director, adding that all the agency’s staff were safe and accounted for.
“WFP will source enough fuel supplies to ensure this loss has no significant effect on our operations,” he said.
Yemeni port authorities have said Hodeida “is operating at its full capacity,” according to the rebels’ Saba news agency.
“We are working around the clock to receive all ships and there is no concern about the supply chain and supplies of food, medicine, and oil derivatives,” port official Nasr Al-Nusairi was quoted by Saba as saying on Sunday.
A Houthi transport official on Monday said “work is underway to receive and unload food and fuel shipments within 24 hours.”
While firefighting teams were still struggling to contain the blaze at the harbor, a fire that erupted at a nearby power plant was nearly under control on Monday, according to Mohammed Albasha, the Navanti Group’s senior Middle East analyst.
“Repairs have started” as electricity gradually returns to the city following outages over the weekend, the analyst said.
 

 


Israelis due in Doha for talks on Gaza truce requests

Israelis due in Doha for talks on Gaza truce requests
Updated 23 July 2024
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Israelis due in Doha for talks on Gaza truce requests

Israelis due in Doha for talks on Gaza truce requests
  • The source said the points were negotiable and an agreement was “doable,” provided Israel does not remain in Gaza “indefinitely” and a solution is found for the Philadelphi corridor, with Egyptian mediators leading these efforts

DOHA: An Israeli delegation will travel to Doha on Thursday to discuss new demands for a Gaza truce and hostage-prisoner exchange, a source with knowledge of the talks said.
The delegation would meet with mediator Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to discuss three Israeli requests, including control over the return of civilians to northern Gaza, the source said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of talks.
Qatar, along with Egypt and the United States, has been engaged in months of behind-the-scenes efforts to broker a Gaza truce and a hostage-prisoner swap.
A proposed cessation of hostilities focuses on a phased approach, beginning with an initial truce.
Recent discussions have centered on a framework outlined by US President Joe Biden in late May, which he said had been proposed by Israel.
The source said Israel had requested its forces remain in the so-called Philadelphi corridor, a 14-kilometer (8.5-mile) stretch along the Gaza-Egypt border, and that it controls the return of displaced Gazan civilians to the north of the Palestinian territory.
Israel has also asked that its troop positions in Gaza be resolved before the truce begins, the source added.
The source said the points were negotiable and an agreement was “doable,” provided Israel does not remain in Gaza “indefinitely” and a solution is found for the Philadelphi corridor, with Egyptian mediators leading these efforts.
But the source said Israel’s return with extra demands was “a recurring theme” in the talks and Israel had “moved the goalposts.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for Washington on Monday under significant domestic and international pressure to agree to a truce and hostage-prisoner exchange in Gaza.
Despite this pressure, Netanyahu maintains that increased military pressure on the militants is the best route to a deal.
On Sunday, the premier’s office said he was sending a negotiating team for new talks on a truce deal.
Except for a one-week truce in November, during which 80 Israeli hostages were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, talks have repeatedly foundered over differences between the parties.
 

 


Civilians pay the price for Sudan’s civil war

Civilians pay the price for Sudan’s civil war
Updated 23 July 2024
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Civilians pay the price for Sudan’s civil war

Civilians pay the price for Sudan’s civil war
  • They face ‘horrendous levels of violence’ from both sides, medical charity says

JEDDAH: Civilians in Sudan are facing “horrendous levels of violence” in the country’s 15-month civil war, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a report published on Monday.

“The price paid by civilians in this war qualifies a conflict seemingly between warring factions as a war on the people of Sudan,” the charity said.

Fighting broke out in April 2023 between the regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, usually referred to as Hemedti.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than seven million displaced. Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, and there is a threat of famine.

“The population has faced horrendous levels of violence, succumbing to widespread fighting and surviving repeated attacks, abuse, and exploitation,” Medecins Sans Frontieres said.

Vickie Hawkins, the charity’s general director in the Netherlands, said: “Nowhere is safe for communities trapped in Sudan conflict hot spots. Patients recount horrific stories of inhuman treatment and violence, perpetrated by armed groups.”
These included “forced defections, looting and arson, degrading interrogation, arbitrary arrest, abduction, and torture on a systematic level,” she said.

While many aid organizations closed operations in Sudan because of the war, Medecins Sans Frontieres continues to operate in eight states across the country. It has treated thousands of conflict injuries, most caused by explosions, gunshots and stabbings.